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German President Joachim Gauck considers second term in office

German daily "Bild" has reported that German President Joachim Gauck is contemplating standing for re-election. The paper cited the unrest over refugees and growing support for the right-wing AfD as his motivation.

In light of the ongoing refugee crisis, Joachim Gauck "doesn't want to plunge politics into another crisis," daily newspaper "Bild" quoted Germany's Presidential Office as saying in its Wedneday edition.

The newspaper also reported that the increasing support in opinion polls for Germany's

right-leaning Alternative for Germany (AfD) party

could influence Gauck's final decision.

According to the most recent Insa opinion poll, carried out between January 28 and February 3, AfD carried 12 percent of public support - double levels from the same time last year.

Gauck is expected to confirm whether or not he will stand for a second term after the three upcoming elections in the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate on March 13.

11th president

The protestant pastor, now nominally politically neutral in his role as head of state, was elected as the 11th president of reunified Germany in 2012, succeeding Christian Wulff who served two years in office.

Gauck's presidency began during Germany's previous, center-right coalition government made up of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Free Democrats (FDP). He was chosen as a unity candidate, acceptable to most parties, after two successive presidential terms ended well ahead of schedule.

Opposition from the Left

Joachim Gauck

The refugee crisis has reportedly influenced Gauck's thoughts about a second term in office.

Should he decide to stand for a second term, Gauck's chances of being reelected are high. Simone Peter, joint leader of the German Greens, said on Wednesday that the party saw "no reason" for them not to support Gauck for a second term.

"The fact that President Gauck is considering a second term in light of the difficult domestic and international political situation is understandable," she said, adding that she hoped Gauck would increase his emphasis on the prospects of a diverse and cosmopolitan society during the refugee debate.

Objection to Gauck's presidency has so far been voiced only from Germany's leftist party Die Linke, who fielded "Nazi-hunter" Beate Klarsfeld as a rival candidate in 2012.

"President Gauck has never been a candidate for the Left, we did not vote for him and in the eventuality that he stands for reelection, we wouldn't vote for him," Die Linke party leader Bernd Riexinger said on Wednesday.

"His remarks regarding the refugee crisis fail to encourage solidarity and humanity in society," Riexinger added, arguing that Gauck promotes a "militarization of German foreign policy."

'Political conscience'

In comparison with similar roles in some other countries, the German presidency is largely ceremonial and has few opportunities to influence day-to-day politics in Germany. The president represents the country in matters of international law, and at official gatherings.

Without the president's signature, however, new legislation cannot come into effect. The president is also responsible for proposing a chancellor to the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag. The German head of state is also expected to serve as something of a political conscience - a figure of authority not bound to party politics who can voice uncomfortable truths.

Any German citizen over the age of 40 is eligible to become president and can serve for a maximum of two five-year terms in office.

ksb/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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